The small business owner relationship has unique challenges and needs.
I specialize in helping couples in which at least one partner is an entrepreneur or the owner of a small business. These couples face specific challenges and develop predictable feelings and dynamics within the relationship. I help these couples understand, repair, and nurture the relationship even in the face of the demanding needs of business ownership.
FOR PARTNERS OF A BUSINESS OWNER
Partners of small business owners often feel they come secondary to the business. The business owner seems to have few boundaries around when they attend to business (ie: working late, always having their phone on them, answering emails as soon as they come in) and has even fewer boundaries around when they are thinking about the business, which can seem to be all the time. This leads the partner of a business owner to feeling unimportant, rejected, and lonely. After time, this can lead to resentment of the business and/or resentment of their partner for putting more energy into the business than they do into the relationship.
If the couple has children, the business owner’s partner can feel even more hurt and angry because they witness the children experiencing similar feelings around missing out on quality time with the business owner or feeling that they come second to the business. Watching their children go through these emotions and experiences can create a surge of anger. Many times, when the business owner’s partner brings up these feelings, they are already very upset. This creates a situation that is more likely to escalate into a negative interaction and less likely become a constructive conversation about how to balance work and home life.
One of the hardest things about being the partner of a business owner is feeling the need to “compete” with the business for time and attention. Even if they really want to be supportive, it is very difficult—if not impossible—to support a business that is seen as a competitor for the time, love, and energy of the person you love.
FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
The business owner can feel they have more on their shoulders than one person can bear. They are excited and passionate about building and maintaining the business, but can also feel overwhelmed at the level of work and responsibility it takes. Many times, they base their self-worth and self-esteem around how successful the business is. If their business has employees, they feel pressure to maintain the business so their employees don't lose their jobs; if the business is a sole proprietorship, the business owner can feel isolated and experiences the pressure of "it's all on me."
The business owner is no different from others in that they want appreciation, respect, and support from their partner. Many times they become frustrated that their partner seems sad or angry about how hard they work rather than grateful for it. They can feel as though their partner isn’t understanding that they are working this hard for the benefit of their family. They begin to feel as though they have to defend their business against the attacks and criticisms of their partner. Some also start to become dishonest about when they are working in order to avoid upsetting their partner (as in, working after partner has gone to bed, responding to emails in secret, lying about what they are doing on their phone).
One of the hardest struggles in owning a business is that when times are good and business is thriving, the business owner feels successful and good about themselves, but they are also very busy and have little time to devote to their relationship. When business is light, they have more time and energy to give to the relationship, but they are likely anxious and down about themselves due to the state of the business.
Both partners lack the down time and true relaxation that non-business owners get to enjoy. When your business is your main livelihood and when the business can't operate smoothly without you, even a one week vacation seems like an impossibility. Setting boundaries on the business can affect the bottom line and thus the family finances, so it feels equally impossible to find ways to be carefree and 'in the moment.' While these things might seem unrealistic, we can work to find compromises that will allow for more work/life balance and happiness.
HOW I CAN HELP
These couples can have thriving and happy relationships if they know how to manage this unique situation. The first step is coming to a true understanding of what the other partner is experiencing. The next step is figuring out ways to manage a situation that is very demanding and very emotional together, as a team. Finally, couples need to develop ways to protect and grow their relationship, whether business is good or slow. I help walk couples through these steps.
Once couples can have meaningful and constructive conversations around the unique issues they face, they come together into a partnership. This partnership then serves to support the needs of both people, even though those needs are different. With greater support and lowered stress, the room is made for feeling grateful, loved, and content.
There is shock, pain and confusion that both partners go through following an affair. It can be a time in your life where the rug gets pulled out from beneath you and you both struggle to know how to get through it.
Alex has helped many couples who are struggling to recover from an affair or other form of betrayal.
There are definite steps and stages as well as 'do's and 'do not's when it comes to trying to recover trust in a relationship. When couples are guided through the recovery process, it brings calm and organization to a time in life that feels utterly chaotic and unpredictable.
If you are seeking an appointment to help recover trust in your relationship, please make this clear in your phone call or email. The assessment process is somewhat different when a betrayal is the main reason for attending therapy.
Most people who meet the criteria for being a Highly Sensitive Person (also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity) have never even heard of it before. Take a look at the list below to see if any of these sound like you:
-you have a unique ability to understand how people are feeling
-you "take on" the moods of others
-you feel uneasy or stressed by places that have a lot going on, whether noise/music, decor, smells
-you are easily affected by the temperature of a room
-you have begun to avoid places that have sights, sounds, temperatures than bother you
-growing up, your family labeled you as sensitive, shy, anxious, 'making a mountain out of a molehill'
-you are more affected by movies, art, music, etc than others seem to be
-the feelings you feel most often are tired and stressed
-you notice details, such as facial expressions, mistakes in TV/movie editing, or tastes of food/drink
-you are a good problem-solver and planner
-analysis comes easily to you
-when you drive, you know exactly where the other cars are, when the light is going to change, etc
-you wonder why people don't see things the way you do when it seems so obvious
If these seem to fit your experience, you may want to read "The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You" by Elaine Aron, PhD. There can be an instant relief just in knowing you aren't alone. You can find it on Amazon here.
The first step to feeling better is identifying that sensory processing sensitivity is a neurological difference between people. That feeling that your partner doesn't understand you is real; they simply cannot understand what it is like to live life with your type of processing.
Next, it is helpful to learn how your relationship is affected by the way your brain works. It's important that both you and your partner find ways to honor this part of you (instead of criticizing, judging, or disliking it). Couples can make small adjustments that lead to big gains when it comes to lowering stress, increasing connection, and feeling more confident.
I have a lot of experience helping couples where one partner is a Highly Sensitive Person. While you may be so used to being told you are "too sensitive" or a "worry wart," or that you should learn to "go with the flow" and "relax," my office is a place where you can see your sensitivity as a good thing. When you learn how to care for yourself and how to be proud of your brain's ability, your sensitivity can become a strength for your life and relationships. When your partner learns more about how the world looks different behind your eyes, they can become more supportive and loving towards something that previously frustrated them.